Caption This Photo: Kid Rock, Sarah Palin, and The Nuge

A triumphant lowbrow culture-on-the-skids moment in the Oval Office yesterday, as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined rock stars Ted Nugent and Kid Rock for a field trip to see their hero President Donald Trump:

No word yet on whether the White House was graced with a performance of Nugent’s hit song Jailbait or the one where Kid Rock claims he “pissed on my diploma.” As for Palin, we don’t actually know why she was there at all–but it just kind of, you know, fits.

Best and brightest, folks.

Rep. Scott Tipton’s Turn In The Hot Seat

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:

[Rep. Scott] Tipton, the Republican who represents Pueblo and the 3rd Congressional District, faced a town-hall meeting crowd of more than 100 people at Pueblo West High School– many of whom were clearly Democrats — but he took questions for 45 minutes and stayed after to talk informally with those who came Thursday night.

Even so, a large number didn’t like what he had to say. [Pols emphasis]

When he repeated his often-used refrain that President Barack Obama had failed to keep health insurance rates low and let the public keep their insurance policies, some in the crowd jeered and called out “Medicare for all.”

When Tipton said he knew of a woman whose health care premiums had grown larger than her mortgage, a woman in the crowd said Obamacare had been a great benefit to her family.

Taunted that he’d voted to repeal Obamacare more than 50 times, Tipton answered that he wasn’t supporting the Republican plan unless it included key pieces, such covering pre-existing conditions and adequate funding for Colorado residents getting Medicaid.

Rep. Scott Tipton’s rough evening last night in Pueblo has a lot in common with the town hall meeting Rep. Mike Coffman held in Aurora a week ago–one notable difference being that Tipton did not make Coffman’s mistake of publicly supporting the so-called “Trumpcare” Obamacare repeal legislation before it was pulled for lack of support.

It’s also worth noting here that Tipton made promises the Republican caucus may not let him keep–in particular that he won’t support legislation that would cut off coverage for pre-existing conditions and preserve the state’s expansion of Medicaid. It still wasn’t enough, given the doubletalk from Republicans about pre-existing conditions: going back to the old system of “high risk pools,” for example, isn’t a real solution. And what exactly constitutes “adequate” funding for Medicaid? Would anyone now eligible for Medicaid in Colorado lose that eligibility under a bill Tipton would support?

Yes, it’s good that Republicans are showing up to town halls now and answering hard questions. But if the answers do nothing to ease the concerns that prompted the questions–or worse, set Republican lawmakers up for failure–is that really a net positive?

Either way, for Tipton the promises are a matter of record now.

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 21)

Queen Elizabeth II is 91 years old today. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is pushing Congressional Republicans to make another attempt at passing some sort of Obamacare repeal, perhaps as soon as next week. Republicans are not learning much from recent history, however; it appears as though the GOP is once again drafting a secret bill that the majority of the caucus knows nothing about. And as the Washington Post explains, the timing on this new healthcare effort could be particularly problematic:

President Trump is pushing Congress toward another dramatic showdown over the Affordable Care Act, despite big outstanding obstacles to a beleaguered revision plan and a high-stakes deadline next week to keep the government running.

The fresh pressure from the White House to pass a revision was met with skepticism by some Capitol Hill Republicans and their aides, who were recently humiliated when their bill failed to reach the House floor for a vote and who worry now that little has changed to suggest a new revision would fare any better…

Congressional Republicans also worry that they must attract Democratic support to fund the government past the month’s end — a step they must take by midnight April 28 to avoid a shutdown. That could become difficult if Democrats grow alienated by the effort to alter former president Barack Obama’s key domestic policy achievement, which some White House officials said they hope will come up for a vote as early as Wednesday. [Pols ehmpasis]

President Trump appears to be growing increasingly agitated over his lack of progress on much of anything in his first 100 days in the White House, and it is this attitude that seems to be the rationale behind making another attempt at Trumpcare instead of focusing on avoiding a government shutdown (or trying to accomplish anything else, really). Trump insists that the draft of this new healthcare bill has “gotten really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” which is pretty much what he said about Trumpcare before it cratered the last time.

You can count Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) among Congressional Republicans who aren’t sold on the idea of making another repeal attempt. You may remember that Coffman was one of Trumpcare’s biggest cheerleaders back in March.

 

► Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar is warning Colorado’s Congressional delegation that continuing to toy around with healthcare policy could have devastating effects on the insurance market in our state. Salazar says that insurance rates could increase by double digits in Colorado in 2018 because of market uncertainties related to the federal government’s persistent meddling with the Affordable Care Act.

Check out the newest episode of The Get More Smarter Show for an in-depth discussion with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) on Trumpcare reform efforts in Congress and why Republicans can’t get anything moving in that regard.

 

► State lawmakers appear to have reached an impasse on discussions to ask voters for a tax increase to fund road and infrastructure improvements. From the Denver Post:

A grand bargain at the Capitol to seek a tax hike and generate $3.5 billion to improve Colorado’s roadways appeared to collapse just days from the end of the session.

Likewise, a separate bipartisan bill to eliminate cuts in payments to hospitals and funnel more money to struggling rural Colorado moved to life support as talks for a compromise faltered.

The twin setbacks, prompted by ideological gridlock in the divided General Assembly, are a major blow to the governor and legislative leaders who made the issues the top priorities this term…

…The roadblock for the transportation bill is conservative opposition in the Republican-led Senate, where three lawmakers on a key committee are poised to defeat the measure because it includes asking voters for a 0.5 percentage-point increase in the state sales tax.

A resigned Grantham, a prime bill sponsor who wagered significant political capital to forge a deal, acknowledged the reality Thursday and sent shock waves through the statehouse on day 100 of the 120-day session.

Remember these stories when Senate Republicans try to push the blame elsewhere for their legislative inactivity.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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The Get More Smarter Show: April 21, 2017

Today on the Get More Smarter Show: your hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin talk through the latest in Colorado political news, the governor’s race, and 7 seconds on Brexit! Then stay tuned for a must-watch interview with Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

To jump directly to our interview with Congresswoman Diana DeGette, start at 14:02.

Catch up with previous Get More Smarter Show episodes here–and thanks for watching.

Obamacare Repeal Coming Back For More

Zombie Trumpcare.

UPDATE: As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, history would seem to be repeating itself on Trumpcare:

So, outside of a handful of people like Rep. Meadows (N.C.) and Rep. MacArthur (N.J.), leaders of the Freedom Caucus and the Republican moderates respectively, almost no one in the House GOP conference has actually seen the changed bill, much less approved of it. [Pols emphasis]

This is a problem. A big problem.

Why? Try to think all the way back to March 7 — it was more than a month ago, I know — when House Republicans introduced the much-ballyhooed American Health Care Act. Within days of its introduction, the legislation was doomed — as GOP members who hadn’t been a part of the behind-closed-doors crafting of the bill rebelled against this provision or that provision.

Sound familiar? A bill crafted by a small subset of House Republicans? CHECK.  Unseen, at the moment, by the bulk of the GOP conference? CHECK. Unbridled optimism without a ton of evidence to account for it? CHECK.

Perhaps Republicans will let Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) read the bill this time before they make him stump for the proposal.

Judging by how things have gone already, we wouldn’t cross our fingers if we were Coffman.

—–

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports the latest round of potential bad news for millions of Americans who have gotten health coverage via the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare:

House Republicans have been hinting they may introduce a new plan to replace Obamacare before the 100th day of the Trump presidency. Naturally, giving President Trump something to arbitrarily tout as an achievement (even if it passes the House, the Senate looms) in advance of the arbitrary 100-day mark is far more important than the human toll the proposal would have on millions.

Now Republicans are indeed set to introduce the new plan, multiple reports tell us. And judging by a new study set to be released today, it is even crueler than the last GOP plan: The study finds premiums would likely soar for the sick, probably pushing them off coverage.

…It allows states to seek a waiver to get rid of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on charging higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions, on the condition that states set up or participate in high-risk pools that would help cover any of those people who lose insurance. It would also restore to the GOP bill the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) — such as doctor’s and emergency room visits and maternity care — but allow states to seek waivers from them.

In effect, the waiver on preexisting conditions is designed to make conservatives happy, while giving moderates high-risk pools that allow them to argue it wouldn’t harm people with preexisting conditions. The restoration of EHBs is designed to make moderates happy, while telling conservatives states could still get out from under them.

The bottom line, says the Huffington Post, is that the new bill does more to placate the right wing than moderate Republicans–keeping in mina how both factions of the GOP opposed the previous iteration of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill, but for polar opposite reasons:

[W]ith Republicans effectively going back on their repeated promises to guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, the amendment could lose a number of Republicans who already supported the legislation. In short, even though the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus think they have a deal, Republicans writ large might have nothing…

“This effectively allows states to eliminate the ACA’s guarantee of access to insurance at a reasonable price for people with pre-existing conditions, in the interest of lowering premiums for people who are healthy,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said upon seeing a description of the proposal. “It seems to tilt heavily towards what the Freedom Caucus has been looking for.”

Whether this latest effort falls apart just like the last attempt remains to be seen. After the failure of the so-called American Health Care Act, President Donald Trump announced he was moving on to other priorities, and expressed hope that Obamacare’s “implosion” would motivate Democrats to come to the table. This new push for a GOP-led health care reform effort would seem to indicate that the political cost of abandoning the issue entirely is too high–Trump would rightly take the blame for Obamacare breaking down with no effort to stabilize it, but turning to Democrats to definitively fix the Affordable Care Act would alienate too many base Republicans.

So once more into the breach, dear friends, with the same basic deal everyone hates.

Video: Mariachi Band Serenades Cory Gardner

Via Politico, Sen. Cory Gardner’s invite-only event yesterday held by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce featured an unexpected musical interlude:

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Peter Marcus reports:

Three organizations – including two focusing on Latino issues – were behind the musical interruption. Tuesday night, they paid $250 to register as Chamber members and brought six members of a mariachi band from Mexico City to play a “love song” and demand Gardner hold a public forum, said Hilda Nucete, a program director of Denver-based Conservation Colorado.

“It was a gift,” Nucete said, referring to the Spanish song “Where Are You, My Heart?” The song, she said, is about “when the guy really messes up and you’re trying to get back the girl, so we’re trying to get (Gardner) to fall in love with us again.”

As you can see in the video, it was a brief interruption–but long enough to generate another round of unwanted press coverage for Gardner, focusing on his ongoing lack of public engagement during the latest congressional recess. The nonpublic events Gardner has held this recess are not conducive to candid interaction–and are much more literally “paid” attendees than the protesters he demeans by claiming they’re paid.

Which reminds us, has anybody gotten Gardner and Mike Coffman in the same room to talk paid protesters?

Folks, if Gardner is anything, he’s media savvy. The growing bedevilment of Gardner’s every move back home is a serious problem, even if he chooses not to do anything meaningful to address it. Gardner obviously hopes to ride out the discontent, but each one of these negative press events takes a chunk out of Gardner’s beatific public image. And we think he knows it.

In Gardner’s head, the band plays on.

Construction Defects Compromise Redux: Oh Lordy, Kumbaya

Denver’s Beauvallon, a construction-defects horror story.

As the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, a hammed-up drama that most ordinary people couldn’t care less about, the years-long campaign by condominium builders to shield themselves as much as possible from legal liability over defects in their construction, is nearing a possible solution after numerous fits and starts this session:

After four years of failed negotiations, business leaders and Democratic Colorado legislators finally have reached an agreement to move forward a bill that will reform construction-defects law with the aim of jump-starting what is largely a non-existent condominium construction market…

Just three weeks ago, Rep. Alec Garnett, the Denver Democrat leading negotiations with reform backers, announced that talks had hit a major impasse over demands from business leaders that the statute of limitations on discovering purported defects not be extended by as much as six months while condo owners vote on whether to proceed with a lawsuit.

However, a variety of interest groups agreed late Tuesday to reduce the time frame for extending the statute of limitations by just 90 days while narrowing the types of homeowners that could not vote in the election and defining more specifically how that election will occur, said Mike Kopp, the president and CEO of Colorado Concern who had a lead role in the negotiations…

Condominiums now make up less than 3 percent of the new housing stock in Colorado, and builders say they are unwilling to build because current law makes it too easy for just a small group of homeowners association board members to file multi-million-dollar defects lawsuits.

The change that brought parties back to the table on House Bill 17-1279 isn’t a dealbreaker for either side, and this bill preserves the right of condo owners to file suit instead of being forced into binding arbitration to resolve their claims. The position of homeowners’ groups and attorneys who represent homeowners in construction defects claims was always that preserving legal rights for homeowners is their hard limit. What this bill does do is put the decision in the hands of homeowners directly via an election instead of HOA boards, and requires notification of homeowners that a lawsuit might affect their ability to quickly sell their property.

Everyone agrees that Colorado needs more affordable housing, and suburban cities want to make the most of new trends like transit-oriented development. Although builders want to place the blame solely on being made to stand behind their work, there are more complicated market forces in play–as well as politics, since in recent years it’s arguable that builders had a straightforward political motive for not pursuing condo projects.

If the final bill passes with this latest compromise, all parties seem prepared to live with it–and in theory, new condo starts should pick up. Democrats led by Rep. Alec Garnett deserve credit for not abandoning their principles while working hard to get a deal that will finally put this inside-baseball issue to rest.

As for the public, they couldn’t care less–but if their condo’s roof starts leaking, they expect it to be fixed.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 19)

Enjoy the sunshine today before the rain arrives. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado lawmakers appear to have finally reached consensus on so-called “construction defects reform” legislation, which could bring an end to a long-running argument — five years, in fact — regarding legal liabilities for homebuilders. The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee is expected to make amendments that will advance HB17-1279 this afternoon. 

Elsewhere, state legislators are still battling over the state budget, which is the only bill that they are Constitutionally-mandated to pass each session. Governor John Hickenlooper is expressing confidence that there will be no need for a “special session” later this summer.

 

► Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after an upstart Democrat just fell short of the 50% required to win outright a Congressional seat that had been represented by Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services). Democrat Jon Ossoff will now face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff election for a seat that has historically been reliably-Republican. Democrats, meanwhile, are feeling good about what the Georgia Congressional race could portend for 2018.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a 90-day stay on the enforcement of new methane emissions rules. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, informed the oil and gas industry of the move in a letter Wednesday to the American Petroleum Institute.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner, who’s voted with Trump 100 percent of the time, speaks out against Trump

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Public Radio’s Allison Sherry reports that U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who’s in Colorado for a two-week congressional recess “isn’t shy about talking about where he opposes President Trump.”

Sherry reports that “the state’s junior Republican senator spoke out against Trump’s trade policies, his proposed travel ban and the president’s budget priorities that cut diplomatic spending over defense spending.”

Without noting that Gardner has voted with Trump 100 percent of the time so far, Sherry reported:

One of the senator’s recess stops was speaking to employees at CoBank, which provides credit to farmers. Gardner said he was disappointed in the president’s stance on trade, particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership….

On immigration, Gardner said he has continued conversations with Republican Senate colleagues on the need for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that tackled strengthening the border, but also reforming the visa program. He said he wasn’t sure how the Trump administration would greet such a bill, but that discussions were ongoing.

Gardner opposed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill when it was in Congress in 2013.

Gardner’s stop at CoBank is noteworthy, because it continues a string of meetings Gardner has held at private venues. He’s also taken questions on 15 conservative talk radio shows this year.

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Yes, (Some) GOP Senators Did Something Objectively Good

Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) celebrate passage of HB17-1186 in the House.

Colorado Capitol observers are still getting their collective heads around a fairly surprising development in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate: House Bill 17-1186, a bill requiring insurers to cover dispensing 12 months worth of contraceptives to women with insurance coverage, has passed the chamber and is now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature. Similar legislation died in committee in the Senate last year–but with bipartisan sponsorship this session, Colorado Senate GOP leadership not only let the bill go to the floor but celebrated its passage out of the Senate’s “kill committee” in a press release:

Republican Bill Guaranteeing Women’s Health Care Passes Committee

House Bill 17-1186 asks health insurers that are required under current law to provide contraception coverage to extend coverage to provide 12-month’s worth of oral contraceptives for a woman with a prescription…

Reducing barriers to health care for women, and improving access to contraception improves the overall health and well-being of Colorado,” said Coram. “Women’s health care needs require near-constant attention and lifelong commitments. In rural Colorado, the nearest pharmacy can be an hour away and frequent trips are not a reality many Coloradans can afford. Today, we helped improve access for those who need it most, and took a crucial step in decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the associated repercussions in Colorado.”

After this “Republican” bill passed Senate State Affairs, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado sang its praises:

“This is an incredible step toward for women and families. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy for people with busy lives or who live in rural areas with longer travel times. It also will result in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, with a longer reliable supply of birth control. It just gives more stability to women and gives families’ ability to plan their lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The bill’s final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk was 22-11–while certainly not a majority of the Republican Senate caucus, a much healthier margin than many expected. In large part this can be attributed to the work of Sen. Don Coram in the Senate, winning swingable votes on policy by explaining how supporting this measure would also be good politics.

For those of you looking for a “but,” or a last-minute twist that allows for a clean partisan vilification, in the case of House Bill 17-1186 there isn’t one. What happened here was an objectively good thing; reasonable bipartisan cooperation on an issue that hasn’t seen nearly enough bipartisanship. Republicans who supported it can feel good morally and politically, while Democrats achieved a long-sought policy victory for women.

American politics need more stories like this. Many more.

So, Um, About Mike Johnston’s Big Haul…

Michael Johnston.

Nic Garcia writes at Chalkbeat Colorado about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston’s eye-popping first quarter of fundraising–a big haul of money that, under the hood, raises many questions even as the money helps make Johnston a contender:

Nearly 70 percent of the money donated to former state Sen. Michael Johnston’s gubernatorial bid in the first quarter of 2017 came from outside Colorado, records show.

The list of out-of-state donors includes several supporters of the national education reform movement.

They include Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; Howard Wolfson, director of education at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York; and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, the program that gave Johnston his start as an educator.

Johnston raised $632,834 between Jan. 1 and March 31, his campaign reported to the Secretary of State. Of that, $445,389 came from outside Colorado.

What you’re seeing here is the product of Johnston’s leadership in the Colorado legislature on the issue of education reform. As a former teacher and school principal, education has always been central to his campaign message, and left-trending education reformers have been very well funded indeed by wealthy philanthropists. It’s important to note that we’re not talking so much about the far-right Betsy DeVos wing of education reform, with its emphasis on “freedom” for religious schooling and homeschooling–well beyond Johnston’s record of support for school innovation and teacher accountability.

Unfortunately for former Sen. Johnston, the legacy of his “landmark” teacher accountability legislation, SB10-191 has been almost entirely negative for the overwhelming majority of Colorado teachers. Even teachers who rate highly under the new law complain it has forced them to change their teaching style and subject matter to meet arbitrary benchmarks. SB10-191 is at least in part responsible for the growing shortage of teachers in Colorado, with less onerous opportunities available to the declining number of licensed teacher graduates elsewhere.

About 10 percent of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s first-quarter campaign donations in 2010 came from outside Colorado, records show. Less than 1 percent of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s first quarter donations in 2005 were from out of state.

Clearly, by historical standards Johnston’s lopsided majority of out-of-state donors is very unusual. It suggests that Johnston’s real base of support in Colorado is quite limited, and that in turn could well limit his ability to sustain his very high initial fundraising. Especially in a Democratic primary, we just don’t see an education reform-based single issue campaign gaining traction.

And that appears to be Johnston’s sole claim to fame and fortune.

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